President-elect Joe Biden has selected Ohio Representative Marcia Fudge to lead the Department of Housing and Urban Development, according to two people familiar with the matter.
Fudge, who has served in the House since 2008, represents most of the majority-Black areas of Cleveland as well as part of Akron. If nominated, she would be one of just a few House members to leave for the Biden administration as Democrats fight to hold on to the small majority they still have in the next Congress.
Naming Fudge, who is African American, to lead HUD helps Biden fulfill his vow to assemble the “most diverse cabinet anyone in American history has ever announced.” Earlier Tuesday, Biden said he would nominate retired General Lloyd Austin as defense secretary, making him the first African American to lead the Pentagon.
Majority Whip James Clyburn and other members of the Congressional Black Caucus had been publicly campaigning for Biden to choose Fudge to be his agriculture secretary. Instead, the president-elect plans to name former Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack to the position, two people familiar with the process said Tuesday. Vilsack was agriculture secretary under President Barack Obama.
“If I were to be, certainly it’s an honor and a privilege to be asked to be in the president’s cabinet,” Fudge said Tuesday. “It is something that probably in my wildest dreams I never would have thought about.”
As HUD secretary, Fudge, 68, would help oversee the Biden administration’s response to the housing crisis created by the coronavirus, as tenants facing eviction seek rent relief and more Americans are pushed into homelessness.
She has been a fierce critic of Trump administration efforts to end food stamps for millions of Americans by tightening eligibility rules. She also fought the Republican president’s pressure to roll back Obama administration requirements to improve nutritional standards for school lunches.
Clyburn said earlier Tuesday that he expected to see Fudge end up with a Biden nomination. “Look for her to be in the cabinet. It may not be at agriculture but she will be nominated to be in the cabinet,” he said on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.”
The Biden transition declined to comment.
The congresswoman represents a district where nearly a quarter of households were on food stamps in 2018.
Fudge, who chaired the Congressional Black Caucus in 2013-2014, had considered challenging Nancy Pelosi for speaker in 2018. But she ultimately decided against it and endorsed Pelosi, instead.
Fudge has a solid liberal voting record. But one of her most memorable legislative crusades involved her attacks on the independent Office of Congressional Ethics, including introducing a resolution in 2010 with other members of the CBC to curtail its watchdog powers. She said the office, which reviews allegations of misconduct, acted as “the accuser, judge and jury.”
But good government groups disagreed, and pointed out that the congresswoman’s then chief of staff had been admonished after an ethics office investigation for her role in setting up a Caribbean trip for some members of the CBC improperly financed by corporate sponsors.
HUD was established by President Lyndon Johnson in 1965 as part of his“War on Poverty.”
The department promotes and underwrites homeownership for lower- and moderate-income families through its mortgage insurance programs.
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